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St. John’s burns Blue Devils

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DURHAM, N.C.- Very rarely in sports and film, does a sequel equal the original. But on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., the St. John's/Duke rematch was the Thrilla' in Manila and the Godfather II all wrapped up into one.

In one of the most revered and difficult college basketball arenas to play in, the Red Storm shocked the nation with a stirring 83-82 win over No. 2-ranked Duke. The epic not only matched the memorable game at Madison Square Garden last year, a 92-88 overtime win by the Blue Devils, but surpassed it, for St. John's fans.

"It's amazing, it almost reminds me of a Broadway hit," said St. John's head coach Mike Jarvis. "With about four minutes left in the game, I leaned over to my son [assistant coach Mike Jarvis II] and said 'this is incredible. I just can't believe we're having another game like this tonight'. What we probably should do is cancel the series and never play each other again and just sell these tapes."

Fortunately for college basketball fans, the showdown of two of the five winningest programs in college basketball will go on for at least two more seasons, with next year's game being held at Madison Square Garden. The St. John's win snaps Duke's 64-game winning streak over non-ranked opponents. The loss was also only Duke's third against a non-conference team in Cameron since 1983 - a span of 129 games.

All five Red Storm starters scored in double figures and St. John's, which is much smaller than Duke, outrebounded the Blue Devils 38-32 and 14-8 on the offensive boards.

The final minute of Saturday's game was about as good as it gets in college basketball. With two seconds left on the shot clock, Duke junior guard Nate James nailed a three from the corner to give the Blue Devils an 82-81 lead and sent the already-hyped Cameron Crazies into bedlam.

With 21 seconds remaining, Erick Barkley's shot was blocked by Duke's National Player of the Year candidate senior Shane Battier. The sophomore point guard grabbed his own rebound and got the ball to Lavor Postell, whose shot was short. Barkley raced to the loose ball at the top of the key and dished to Bootsy Thornton, who buried an 18-foot jumper in front of the Red Storm bench to put St. John's (21-6, 12-3 Big East) ahead, 83-82, with 11.9 seconds left. Thornton, who scorched the Blue Devils for 40 points at the Garden last season, ended with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds. He added six assists and two steals in 39 minutes.

"I chased down a long rebound and I saw [Thornton] had his feet set," Barkley said. "As soon as it left his hands, I knew it was good because he hits that shot nine out of 10 times in practice."

Duke (22-4) called a time-out and coach Mike Krzyzewski designed a play for either Battier in the corner or freshman point guard Jason Williams from beyond the arc. But the play went awry and senior forward Chris Carrawell missed a desperation three-pointer while being double-teamed by Anthony Glover and Thornton. Battier got to the loose ball in the corner, but couldn't get a shot off as the Red Storm exploded onto the court in elation.

The win, the Red Storm's seventh straight, capped an amazing week that saw No. 9 Syracuse, the defending national champion University of Connecticut and No. 2-ranked Duke all fall to the Johnnies. It is the first time in history a team beat the two teams who played in the previous year's National Championship game back-to-back. It also propelled the Red Storm into the Top 25 polls as St. John's is ranked No. 21 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll and 18th in the Associated Press poll.

"Of course this has been an incredible week," Jarvis said. "Starting last Saturday with Syracuse and then Connecticut and now Duke, it's too bad the season didn't end like, right now."

St. John's jumped out to an early lead on a Thornton three from the top of the key, but the Blue Devils went on a 12-0 run midway through the first quarter to take a 27-15 lead on a NBA three by Battier. The 6-foot-8 forward scored 11 points in the opening nine minutes. The Blue Devils leading scorer would get just one more point the rest of the way.

"We had good looks. St. John's did a really good job of becoming active in their zone defense, especially after I hit a few," Battier said. "They were really conscious of where I was and didn't give me the looks I had early on. When that happens, as the go-to-player, you have to find other ways to score and I just didn't do a good job of that."

St. John's went into the break with a one point lead courtesy of a Thornton layup. The Red Storm went on a 15-3 run midway through the second half, capped by a picturesque alley-oop from Barkley to Lavor Postell to put the St. John's up, 60-53, with 12:31 left. The Blue Devils struggled against the Red Storm 1-2-2 zone press.

Eight straight points by the Blue Devils, highlighted by a one-handed jam by freshman Carlos Boozer, put Duke ahead, 78-75, with 4:09 left.

The lead changed hands three times in the final 1:18 before Thornton nailed the game-winner.

St. John's 66, Seton Hall 60. With a "win one for the Gipper" mentality, the Red Storm rallied around Barkley, who was suspended, to win its eighth straight. St. John's ran the table in February.

Thornton again led the way for the Red Storm with 28 points on 11-19 shooting. Gray, who started at point in Barkley's absence, had 13 points and seven assists and Postell added 12 points.

South Jamaica native Shaheen Holloway led Seton Hall (19-8, 10-6) with 22 points, 17 in the first half. Darius Lane added 13 points, but only four in the second half.

The Red Storm return to action Sunday at noon in Miami.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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